Marking Lincoln's Birthday With a Look at His Uncertain but Undeniable Faith

Lincoln is tagged a secular figure, but he saw the Civil War as divine retribution for a national sin.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

To mark what would have been Lincoln's 200th birthday, I've got a piece up on usnews.com about Lincoln's confounding but compelling religious faith. The only president to never join a church, Lincoln nonetheless came to see the Civil War as divine retribution for the national sin of slavery. Lincoln is often tagged a secular figure, but his White House years turned him into a believer in a providential judge/ruler God that resembled the God of the Hebrew Scriptures. In an age of Protestant revivalism, the 16th president rarely mentioned Jesus, even as he frequently attended Presbyterian services. Here's the gist:

Beyond his reticence about personal matters and his obvious discomfort with organized religion, Lincoln's faith life eludes easy description because it changed dramatically during the White House years. If Lincoln arrived in Washington as an Enlightenment deist who, like the Founding Fathers, perceived a distant creator who left his creation to its own devices, the crucible of the Civil War made him believe in a justice-seeking God who intervened in history, even if his intentions were difficult to read.

"Because he never became a convert or joined a church, some people say he never changed," says Allen Guelzo, author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. "But you can't read about how Lincoln talks about God in speeches and documents after 1862 and say he's an infidel. Something had changed."

Read the full piece here.

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